Pre-War Tarnow


Tarnow before the war was a thriving city of approximately 50,000 people, nearly half of whom were Jews.  Below is a description of the various Jewish sites that were situated in Tarnow before the Shoah.



On the corner of Żydowska street a plaque commemorates the tragic days of 11-19 June 1942, the first “liquidation action” in the Tarnów ghetto. Żydowska street runs from the Rynek, along with the adjacent street, Wekslarska. Before the Second World War, Jews resided on these streets. Typical seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings have survived.


Already in the seventeenth century, the Old Synagogue was built near these two streets. It was burned in November 1939, and its ruins were disassembled, leaving only the bima.  Fragments of the floor and stucco decorations along the caps of the columns have survived.  During the 1980’s, it was restored, surrounded by a low fence and covered with a roof. In 1989, a granite plaque was installed at the site with an inscription in Hebrew, English and Polish: “The bima is only a fragment of the old, magnificent Tarnów synagogue that was destroyed by the Germans on 11 November 1939.”


Bima, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus: in Tarnow before the war.jpg

                                                            Jewish street in Tarnow - ©Simon Wiesenthal Centre



ul. Goldhammera 3 – Soldinger Hotel. Before the war, this was a luxury hotel. During the occupation, the Germans occupied it; after the war, it became the headquarters of the Jewish Community and a house of prayer. Later, until 1975, the building was used as a hotel (the Leliwa Hotel), after which time it was taken over by the Voivodship Communist Committee.
ul. Goldhammera 5 – Building of the Credit Society. This eclectic building dates back to 1890, when it was erected at the initiative of Herman Merz, a member of the town council and chairman of the Jewish Community. It housed the headquarters of the Jewish Credit Society for Trade and Industry.
Pl. Więźniów Oświęcimia (Square of the Auschwitz Prisoners) – The ritual bath, the mikvah, still stands. The two-story Moorish Revival building was designed by Franciszek Hackbeil and Michał Mikos. It opened in 1904. The mikvah is one of the few surviving buildings of the ghetto. After the war, it served as a municipal bath; currently it houses a therapeutic spa.


The memorial standing opposite the baths commemorates 13 June 1940, when the Germans locked 753 men in that building – both Jews and Poles, who were then marched to the freight train station and sent to Auschwitz. Seven hundred twenty-eight people reached the camp, and were marked with the numbers 31 to 758.


ul. Nowodąbrowska 25 – the building of the Jewish Old People’s Home, which currently comprises part of a hospital complex. In 1912, when not in use, it was sold by the Community to a Jewish foundation caring for the elderly, which had been established in 1891. The Home opened in 1913 and was named after Mendl Maszler. In 1939, the Germans killed all of the Home’s residents. The building of the Jewish Hospital was built thanks to funds from the great philanthropist Debora Menkes-Wekslerowa, who left two buildings to the Jewish Community in her will for this purpose. The income from these buildings was used to maintain the hospital. The building dates back to 1842.



The site of the former New Synagogue.
The New Synagogue used to stand on the corner of Nowa and Waryńskiego streets, and had a characteristic copula, visible in prewar photographs. It was set on fire in November 1939, after which its ruins were blown up by the Germans. The site of this synagogue is marked by a plaque that was installed in the autumn of 1993. The only remaining fragment of the synagogue is a column that currently makes up part of a sepulchral monument erected at the site where Jews were executed at the town’s kirkut.



Jewish cemetery.
The Tarnów kirkut was originally founded outside the town walls, in the village of Pogwizdów in the first half of the sixteenth century. It currently falls within the city limits, bordered by the streets Słoneczna, Szpitalna and Starodąbrowska. It has an area of about three hectares (7.4 acres) and is surrounded by a brick wall, which was restored in 1989-1991. A new iron fence runs along ul. Słoneczna. Several thousand gravestones of different types and styles have survived. The oldest dates back to the eighteenth century. There are no ohalei in this cemetery.


The Jewish cementery of Tarnow, photo:

A.Olej&K. Kobus cemetary.jpg

                                                  More cemetery stones, Tarnow


Several dozen plaques have been installed along the interior wall commemorating those who were killed during the Shoah.

The cemetery also has also a military sector where only about twenty tombstones have survived. One can see tombstones from prominent Tarnów families, such as the Aberdams, Brandstaetters (that of the two well-known writers), Maschlers, Merzs and Szancers. Many of the town’s rabbis are also buried here, including Samuel Szmelke Horowitz (d. 1713), Icchak Ajzyk (d. 1756), Eliezer ben Icchak (d. 1811), Izrael Rapaport (d. 1881), Abełe Sznur (d. 1917) and Majer Arak (d. 1925). In the eastern part of the cemetery, behind the concrete wall, is the resting place of Arie Lejb, son of the great tsaddik of the Halberstam dynasty – Ezechiel Szraga of Sieniawa. This grave is visited by pious Chasidim of the Bobowa and Nowy Sącz groups. To the right of the entrance are the mass graves of Jews who were shot there. In 1946, a memorial designed by Dawid Beker, a pupil of Xawery Dunikowski, was erected at the site. It features a fragment of a column that had survived in the ruins of the New Synagogue, symbolizing the lives that were tragically broken off. A granite plaque has inscriptions in both Hebrew and Polish that read: “Here rest 25,000 Jews who were brutally murdered by German thugs from 11 June 1942 to 5 November 1943.” The column itself has an inscription in Hebrew that cites from poetry by Nachman Bialik: “And the sun shined and was not ashamed.” The kirkut was entered in the register of historical sites in 1976. In 1991, a corner of the original cemetery gate was sent to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; a modern copy was installed in its place.



ul. Ochronek 22, Workers’ Center – the former B. Michalewicz Union Center, built by the Bund party as a simple one-storied (two-storied, US), was later reconstructed numerous times. The “Krzak and Szpiller” suitcase factory once stood nearby.



ul. Kołłątaja 14 - Orphanage Home, built in 1913. During the war, all its children, along with their       teachers and caregivers were killed. Currently the State Preschool No. 2 is housed here.


ul. Sienna 5 - the Talmud-Tora school, a two-story building erected before the First World War.  The Medical Schools Complex is housed here. Henryk Szancer’s steam mill, dating back to 1846, is also located on ul. Sienna.



ul. Bałuta 6 - The “Baron M. Hirsch Jawne” School building. The Hirsz Foundation established the    school as early as 1891, but the modern building was erected in 1899. A four-class school primarily for craftsmen’s children, including girls, was housed here. In 1937, the building was taken over by the “Safa Berura” school, and from that time, the Hebrew Jehoszua Thon Gimnazjum and Liceum was located here/



ul. św. Anny 1. At ul. św. Anny the great masonry synagogue known as Tempel was built – now only an empty space remains.  Next to it, a two-story building used to house the “Safa Berura” (“Pure Language”) Society’s school. The school opened in 1923, as the first in Tarnów to teach in the Hebrew language.



Important personages associated with Tarnów: General Józef Bem, Kazimierz Brodziński, Józej Szujski, Zygmunt Kaczkowski, Wincenty Witos, Jan Szczepanik, Stefan Jaracz, Zenon Klemensiewicz, Roman Brandstaetter, Jan Bielatowicz.


Important Jewish figures from Tarnów: Rebbe Mordechaj Dawid Brandstaetter, Professor Dr. Leon Kelner, Icchak Shipper, Karol Radek (Sobelson), Chahim Najger, Eliasz Goldhammer.



Jews at Red Cross Course, Tarnow 1938.jpg

                                                            Jews at Red Cross course, Tarnow – 1938  ©Simon Wiesenthal Centre


Street in Tarnow


Photo of Tarnow Synagogue


Tarnow 1905


                                    Tarnow synagogue (before WWI)                                                                    Tarnow and environs


Copyright © 2008 Molly Runds

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